”Responding to a student-led group petitioning to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, the Fairfax County Public Schools board voted over the summer to create a working group that would consider the community concerns and look into the logistics of a potential name change.
Since school system superintendent Dr. Karen Garza recently announced her resignation, she informed the Stuart pyramid community that working group is being reevaluated.
The students involved have said they don’t want to continue attending a school named for a leader in the Confederate Army cavalry. In addition to partnering with the NAACP, they gathered community signatures for a petition to change the name of the school.
Other alumni have spoken up at school board meetings opposing a name change. They dispute the research of the students and say it doesn’t tell the whole story of who Stuart was.
“While we are still committed to addressing the concerns of the Stuart community,” Garza wrote in an Oct. 12 letter, “I believe that since I am leaving my position, it would only be fair to allow the Interim Superintendent to take over the necessary steps in forming this working group.”
Current deputy superintendent Dr. Steve Lockard was named as interim for Garza’s position, which she’s said she will leave by Dec. 16 this year.
Garza said the timeline for the working group is being extended “in order to transition the decisions to Dr. Lockard as well as to provide more clarity on the process, to carefully consider the makeup of the committee and to choose a facilitator.”
A decision had been made to hire a facilitator that would “bring independence to the project” Garza said, as well as keep the group on task with regards to demands from the school board.
Garza said in her letter the expectation was the cost for that facilitator would not exceed $20,000.
Such a person has not been hired yet, however, and with Garza’s departure, she said the decision to move forward with a facilitator has been put on hold.
Though Garza and the school board maintain no decision has been made to change Stuart’s name, the board has directed the eventual work group to do significant hypothetical research.
“The working group will weigh the pros and cons of a name change,” Garza said, “continue to ensure public engagement and determine the extent of support for change; explore public-private partnerships to finance any name change; examine ways to prevent added burdens on the school’s booster clubs, PTSA, and Stuart school administration; decide the best method for transitioning from an old name to a new one; ensure proper record retention; and set the best timing for such a change, if approved by the Board.